Netanyahu Says 'No Terror Supporters' in Gov't After Gantz Calls for Unity With 'All Parts of House'

Prime minister, Kahol Lavan leader meet Friday overnight to discuss possible unity government to tackle coronavirus

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Netanyahu after giving a statement in Jerusalem, March 12, 2020
Netanyahu after giving a statement in Jerusalem, March 12, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Friday overnight to discuss the possible formation of a unity government to better confront the spread of the coronavirus in Israel, where the number of diagnosed cases rose to 126. 

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While announcing new health regulations to the public on Thursday, Netanyahu called to form an "emergency national unity government, without hesitations" for a limited time, adding that "together we will save tens of thousands of citizens."

At the time, Gantz responded that his party "has supported and will continue to support the joint fight against the spread of coronavirus. As we have done so far, we will continue to act with statehood and responsibility for the public."

In light of the situation, Gantz said, "we would be willing to discuss establishing a national emergency government that would include representation of all parts of the house."

According to a statement from Netanyahu's bureau on Friday morning, the premier stressed to Gantz during their nighttime meeting that "terror supporters" cannot be part of said government, neither in normal circumstances nor in emergency.

The comment seems to be implicitly refering to members of the Arab-majority Joint List, the third largest party in the Knesset, which Netanyahu heavily vilified during Israel's numerous election campaigns over the last year.

The statement said that Netanyahu invited Gantz to convene for a second meeting with negotiating teams.

In a conversation Thursday night, President Reuven Rivlin thanked Gantz for his willingness to help form a broad emergency government.

Rivlin welcomed Netanyahu's initiative, adding that "we must do everything in order to focus on the tasks at hand."

Kahol Lavan officials believe that the dramatic exacerbation of COVID-19 would make it difficult for Gantz to gain legitimacy to promote small political moves, such as the impeachment of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein or the promotion of secular legislation.

A Kahol Lavan member who has so far opposed cooperation with Netanyahu told Haaretz, "It seems the establishment of a joint emergency government will not be avoided … It will be under very clear conditions. We will demand a complete freeze on a series of controversial proposals that Likud has sought to advance in the recent period."

Kahol Lavan MK Yoaz Hendel called on his colleagues via Twitter to form a unity government with Likud in light of the coronavirus crisis, to which Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett showed support for.

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